In 2000 the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) came into law. Its intention was to fulfil the requirements of section 32 of the Constitution, which enshrined the right of access to information by both public and private bodies. Included in the definition of a private body is a partnership and private companies. This article concentrates on the obligations of private bodies, and in particular private companies.

All private companies have to compile an information manual in the form prescribed by the PAIA. Initially, the deadline for the publication of the manual for private bodies was 31 December 2011. However, private companies that employed less than 50 people in the following industries or had annual turnover that was less than the listed amounts below, were given until 31 December 2015 to compile their manuals.

Industry Annual Turnover
Agriculture R2 million
Mining and Quarrying R7 million
Manufacturing R10 million
Electricity, Gas and Water R10 million
Construction R5 million
Retail and Motor Trade and Repair Services R15 million
Wholesale Trade, Commercial Agents and Allied Services R25 million
Catering Accommodation and Other Trade R5 million
Storage and Communications R10 million
Finance and Business Services R10 million
Community, Special and Personal Services R5 million

The net result is that by 31 December 2015, all private companies irrespective of size, must have prepared a manual containing the information prescribed by the PAIA.

What information must be contained in the manual?

In terms of section 51 of the PAIA, the manual of a private company must contain at least the following information:

Requirement Description
Contact details The postal and street address, phone and fax number and, if available, the e-mail address of the information officer of the private company body.
Automatically available information Some information is readily available without a person having to request access in terms of PAIA. The manual of the private company must indicate this information which is readily available.
Records available on request The Section 51 Manual must list the categories of records which are available upon request.
PAIA procedure Outline the PAIA procedure to be followed to request access to information from the private company (i.e. Form C).
Company Including the details of the head of the company or the company’s CEO (as in terms of PAIA the
Information Information Officer of a private company is usually the CEO or head).
Fees State the requester and access fees applicable in terms of PAIA (see Section 3 for further information).
Recourse What remedies are available to requesters if their request for information has been refused.
Further Details Any further details relating to requests for access to records.

This manual is to be updated for any material changes and must be available at the firm and on its website. A copy of the manual is also to be sent to the Human Rights Commission for posting on their website.

For your convenience, an example of a manual for a private company can be found here:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted. (E&OE)

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